Saturday, December 22, 2007

Flyfishin' Annual Report – Stop the Presses!

With the exception of a memorable day on the water in the July Montana heat, the rest of my outings in 2007 ranged from frustrating all the way up to below average. Extremely low water levels and only a slightly higher skill level added up to an end of year summary that looks something like this: 'Next year will be HAS to be!'

I was very close to hanging up the gear for the season and focusing on a fresh start in the spring, in fact. But I was looking at eleven days off in a row, and figured, what better way is there to quickly get out of work mode than to go fishing? So yesterday, courtesy of Rose River Farm in Syria, Virginia, I had the kind of day that erases an entire year of fishing frustration.

Completely overcast, air temps in the upper 40s, and water temps - according to the ten digital thermometers I keep in my socks - quite a bit colder than that. Perfect fishing weather. I was also, as luck would have it, the only angler on this beautiful stretch of private trout water. Nothing was rising, so I just started drifting big nymphs and wooly buggers and San Juan worms through fishy stretches. Let me be clear on something here, these are not stretches of water that Seem Like They Would Hold Fish, you can SEE dozens of huge trout stacked up in the gin clear water. Before long I started to catch them. They are incredibly strong! Three in particular this day took me on five or six or seven runs before I could net them. But they all fought hard, most lept in the air multiple times, and several took my fly rather than be subjected to my net and camera.

This fish was sure having a bad week! Looks like a great blue heron took a chunk out of this guy not more than a day before I landed him. He seemed absolutely healthy, gaping wound notwithstanding. But he fought hard. Bad news is, that wound is highly visible from above the water, and will probably result in future prey attacks. I hope he makes it though, any fish that survives that deserves to grow old.

How many fish did I catch? I don't know. At least fifteen to hand. They were all big. Many others on the line for a second or two here or there. There were stretches when I had a strike on every cast. But the really fun thing about fishing here is that you get to work on landing big fish, fighting fish. And if I'm at a public water recently stocked with 9" rainbows, I can convince myself that getting them to take the fly is the prize. I am lying. The prize is having to fight a fish to successfully land it, and this happened more yesterday than in all the rest of the year of local trout fishing combined.

Yesterday was also a big day for my underwater camera. I tried a few shots of fish as I released them, then realized I could take little movies of the same thing. Here are three of the best shots together in one video clip. Pretty cool!

Thanks to Douglas at Rose River Farm for not only saving my season, but providing the single best day of trout fishing I've ever had. As I sat at the gazebo in the fading light, finishing a Sam Adams Winter Lager and lighting a cigar, I watched the trout below. It was hard to complain about anything. And thoughts of a poor year of fishing had long since faded.

So Merry Christmas to you and yours, and thanks for stopping by this blog from time to time throughout the year.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

First Snow of the Year!

Maybe it's a holdover from when I was a kid, but I always look forward to the first snow of the year, no matter how much traffic havoc it wreaks.

I actually tried to go to work twice today. First at 6:00 a.m., just as the snow was starting. I got about eight miles into my 55 mile commute and it stopped. An hour later I was still there, so I turned around. Checked traffic reports online and tried again at 9:30. Got to the same spot and stopped. The only reason traffic moved up at all was because some people ahead of me got out of line to turn around and go home. Which is exactly what I did. This area is ridiculous in terms of A) preparation (they talked on the news all night about how ready they were, yet roads were left untreated, and B) the incompetence of drivers. Winning combination.

But all that is forgotten with this highlight outside, our new dog Gromit getting dragged around the yard at the end of a stick by Sierra. Gromit's first snow. At first he didn't notice it, then he tried to eat it all, and finally he settled in with the realization that it's his very favorite thing. I almost agree.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Big trout at Rose River Farm

I was privileged to have the opportunity to once again fish the Rose River in Madison County, VA at the Rose River Farm, thanks to my friend and host Douglas. Tons (quite possibly literally) of really big, thick, meaty trout and gin clear water. My fishing skills limited my performance to just a couple over the course of several hours, but every trout I saw or caught was this size or bigger. This shot is misleading because his tail is falling away from the camera, but it's a nice size fish. Very nice. Really difficult to hold and photograph a trout this big by yourself, but that's a really nice problem to have!

Douglas, his awesome dog Enzo, and I think that must be Enzo's beer on the rock out in the middle.

Sunrise over the mountains. Boy, ice crystals in the late fall air sure do make for spectacular skies. Madison County is a beautiful place.

A face so great I had to put another Enzo shot up here. He's a Spinoni, and every time I spend time with this dog I am further convinced my next dog will be a Spinoni too.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Monday, November 26, 2007

Saltwater, Speckles and Spinning Tackle

My wife and I were in Jacksonville, Florida over Thanksgiving, and decided to go fishing one morning. I didn't bring flyrods or anything, we just wanted a carefree morning on the water with an opportunity to catch some fish. Capt. Bill Schuller of Heads and Tails Fishing Charters met us in America's oldest city, St. Augustine, and off we went.

The tide was VERY high and, as a result, the fishing was slow. I was hoping to catch a redfish, but a couple hours in, fishing in the area of some old submerged bridge supports, we started to get a few speckled sea trout. I had never seen one before, this one pictured above is my first! They've got teeth unlike any I've ever seen on a fish before.

Soon after, I caught a nice bluefish that fought like hell! One of the nicest fighting fish I've ever had on the line short of a steelhead or fresh salmon. They've got some serious teeth too! Bill is a fly fishing guide also, and I think next time I'll try to get one of those bad boys on a fly rod. We had a great time and I could see making this a tradition whenever we head back to Jacksonville. Thanks for a fun time on the water, Bill!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Flyover Highlight

At the Redskins game Sunday I was watching the Air Force soloist belt out a tremendous version of the National Anthem when my buddy tapped me on the shoulder and directed my attention to the four fighter jets getting larger in the sky across the stadium. I fumbled for the camera and snapped two pictures. The first was from pretty far away still and you see that view above. Then, right around 'Home of the Brave,' the jets - which were pointed straight toward our upper deck seats - flew directly overhead.

I don't remember if I ever put the camera up to my eyes, but as the jets screamed overhead I apparently clicked the shutter, my hands having dropped to my side as my head was turned upward, jaw agape. The sound was deafening. And then it got twice as loud. I totally lost interest in capturing it with the camera, and was just so thrilled to be experiencing it.

It. Was. Awesome.

Rick Walker, on the staff of, evidently had his wits about him more than I, and took these really cool shots. I publish them here courtesy of Rick and with his permission. Thanks Rick!

I've seen flyovers before. Preakness comes to mind. But maybe the fact it was Veterans Day, maybe it was because we were so high up that the jets seemed REALLY close, but this was an indescribably powerful thing to witness.

God Bless America. THANK YOU VETERANS!

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Our Florida Kingsnake Belle shed recently, and I tried a different camera technique to try and capture her colors. I put her on a glass coffee table and set my digital camera on (don't tell Belle) 'cuisine.' I guess it focuses on the foreground only, uses the flash but retains bright colors. The room was lit, so the background dropping to almost black was a pleasant surprise.

Gearing up for winter trout...

Last weekend I fished the Gunpowder for the first time in quite a while. Incredibly beautiful place, particularly when you look on a map and realize how close you are to Baltimore. The fishing, as has been the case with me almost all year, was poor. But I always leave the Gunpowder in a better state of mind than when I arrived, regardless of how successful I am with the fly rod. Saturday produced just a couple very small trout, and I hooked and lost a couple more. But I was pleasantly surprised when I picked up the camera today, I had forgotten snapping this picture but I think it accurately conveys the beauty of the place. I plan on doing a bit of winter fishing up there, and look forward to returning there when there's snow on the ground.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


This past weekend, on a beautiful and crisp autumn day, I was driving back from Bass Pro with my 14' Tracker in tow, having had a little work done on it. I don't have any immediate plans for it this fall, but it was nice to get it back after a few weeks, I just like to have all my 'stuff' in one place. I was hurrying a bit, we had plans to unload the boat and immediately head up the road to Charlestown Race Track to place some bets on the great day of racing that is the Breeders Cup. I was excited to plunk some money down on my boy Curlin, who treated me SO well on Preakness day. Good music was streaming in from a satellite overhead, and life was good.

I came upon and began to pass a long string of cars in the right lane with flashers on. Funeral style. As I looked over at the cars to my right, I was struck by how young all the occupants were. Sad, I thought, and thinking of ways that young people die I imagined a car accident.

As I approached the front of the line I saw two immaculate white Cadillacs. The trailing limousine had blacked out windows. The hearse in front did not, and when I saw the casket through the rear door the music in my car, in my head, stopped. An American flag neatly draped over a white coffin. Not an accident victim, but a volunteer soldier, an American hero inside. And a grieving family behind, separated from me by so much more than two panes of glass. A mile of friends and colleagues behind.

I felt a lot of things at that moment. Grief. Gratitude. Pride. And shame. Just moments before I would have said, if there were anyone else in the car to hear, 'what a great little day I got goin' here!' Then reality dragged me out of my car and punched me in the gut so hard I never really got my breath back the rest of the day.

I'm involved, I do some work with wounded vets and think about them often through the course of every day. I do that work because I don't know how else to thank them for theirs. But this day was a reminder that, well, that everyone could use a reminder. And here just a few days later, I can see my boat from the back window of my house, Curlin roared to another victory and helped pay for that last trip to Bass Pro, the songs from my XM radio are once again reaching my brain, our home is blessed with puppiness and, I have to admit, life is good still. Or again. That wind-knocked-out-of-me feeling lasted a while, I still feel a twinge of it now as I write this, but it fades, unfortunately, as it always does.

To the family shrouded in that white limousine traveling west on Interstate 70 outside of Baltimore last Saturday, thank you for your sacrifice. I'm deeply sorry for your loss. And I will try my best to hang on to the feeling that seeing your son or daughter that day gave me. A smaller, more meaningless gesture I can't even imagine, but it's all I know to give. God bless you.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

It's About Time!

What we really need in this area is one of those hurricanes that weakens over land, but comes up the coast and stalls, dumping inches of rain on the entire region. But that's just not in the cards. However, we are in the middle of an encouraging three-day rain 'event,' and that's sure a lot better than nothing!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Meet Gromit!

This is Gromit! We got him yesterday while we were at the national JRT Trials in Havre de Grace, MD. Our other Jack Russell, Scooter, can be a pretty big jerk with other dogs. He was with us, so they met on neutral ground. My German Shorthair was home by herself so introductions needed to be made last night when we got home.

I won't lie, my dog is not at all dog friendly, so I was extremely nervous. But all introductions went much, much better than I anticipated. Bringng a new pup into the house with two 12-year-old dogs with, uh, strong personalities won't be without its challenges. But the first 18 hours have given me reason to be confident that we'll be able to manage everyone.

Possibly the best part, he's four months old and has already gotten a big head start on housebreaking and crate training. He might be housebroken, actually, he seems to be. But I'm not a fool, one day without an accident does not a housebroken puppy make. Regardless, a lot of the early hard work has been done for us already.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Oh. Sorry. Wrong T3...

That's more like it. I took the opportunity after breaking my Clearwater 5wt to upgrade when I got my replacement rod. This is a beautiful T3, 8'6" 4-weight. I think it will be a perfect little trout rod for small to medium sized streams, and occasions when a little breeze makes my 3-weight a little hard to handle. I already had it out in the yard this evening fishing for lawn trout, and it really feels great. Hope to have a fishing report soon! Meanwhile, a big thanks to Orvis for honoring the warranty, allowing me to upgrade, and handling the whole thing quickly and pleasantly.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Maine: The Rest.

This was really interesting. In 1963, a B-52 crashed deep in the woods about ten miles from our cabin. A local snowmobile club maintains a memorial there. The crash left few large pieces of the plane, yet there were two survivors, including the co-pilot whose parachute did not work. He landed in the snow, upright in his ejection seat. It's still an eerie site, a debris field that covers acres, including airplane parts stuck in trees or half buried in the ground.

Pop quiz: This is either A) the opening scene of a horror movie, or B) the place where we got fresh lobster for dinner one night.

The answer, surprisingly, is B. But the lobsters were great, caught that very morning.

Some other shots from the week, in no particular order...

Maine: The Float.

Douglas and I floated the 3.5 miles of the East Outlet guided by Dan from Maine Guide Fly Shop. Dan has a reputation of being The Man in that part of Maine when it comes to fishing. Here's Douglas and our ride...

I got the first fish of the day, this is a female landlocked salmon, and Dan said it was likely two and a half years old, her first annual trip into the river.

Here's Dan holding the same fish...

Then it was Douglas' turn, and he caught I think four brook trout in a row. This first one was a really nice size...

But the colors on the second fish were absolutely stunning...

Next up I found a match for my earlier salmon, this time a male of the same age. Colored very much like a brown trout...

The river dumps out into Indian Pond, an enormous (by my east coast standards) body of water without a visible structure anywhere around the perimeter. With the exception of a few beautiful campsites accessible only by boat, this place looks like it looked a thousand years ago.

Maine. The River.

This is the East Outlet of the Kennebec River. The first day I waded this by myself while the other guys were out in the north woods looking for birds.

I didn't really know what I was doing, this is different than the salmon fishing in New York I had done before. But the word was, nymph or streamer fishing. I tried some stone fly nymphs of various sizes -- I could see stone flies on the rocks -- but they produced nothing. I ended up fishing a black wooly bugger with a little green flash like a nymph with a strike indicator, and caught this gorgeous brook trout on the second cast.

Maine: The Dogs.

A Spinoni (Enzo), three Setters (Gus, Jus and Smoke) and a Pointer (Gem) helped make the trip more productive for the bird hunters, and certainly more enjoyable for me. These five dogs, some of whom met eachother for the first time here, got along great. Bird hunters are serious about their dog training, and as a result these dogs were well behaved and a real joy to be around.

This is Gem posing with her first taken bird, a woodcock. Great dog. That's my friend Ed's beautiful shotgun. All the guys had shotguns suitable for hanging in any fine art gallery, but this one is special.

This is me with my traveling buddy, Enzo. Spending a week with this dog, including two VERY long travel days, has put the Spinoni breed on my short list of possibilities for my next dog. Sweet, friendly, and as goofy as a Maine winter is cold.